Heated exchange at Morro Bay council meeting leads to calls for resignation
The race for Morro Bay mayor is marked by clear differences of opinion between candidates John Headding and John Weiss about how best to proceed on the controversial sewage treatment and water recycling plant.
The planned new facility, slated to be built at the intersection of South Bay Boulevard and Highway 1, will cost an estimated $128.5 million.
Other key topics of debate include housing, vacation rentals, city finances and attracting head-of-household jobs.
Headding and Weiss are competing to replace Mayor Jamie Irons, who announced in July that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.
Headding is an incumbent on the Morro Bay City Council who is concluding his first term, while Weiss has been heavily involved in community Chamber of Commerce and Rotary groups. Both men operate businesses in the area.
Running for: Mayor
Occupation: President and CEO, Headding Inc.; Morro Bay City Council member; retired CEO, Mercy Medical Center and Merced Community Medical Center; owner of Morro Bay Drug & Gift.
Education: Bachelors of science degree in pharmacy, University of the Pacific; doctor of pharmacy degree, University of the Pacific; masters degree in healthcare administration, Colorado university, Denver.
Prior Experience in Office or Running: Completing first term as Morro Bay council member
1) What should be done at the city level to address the crisis-level lack of affordable housing? The city should continue to refine its secondary dwelling unit ordinance which was passed by the current City Council to provide lower-cost rental options for our community. Additionally, we should expand our partnership with People’s Self Help Housing to pursue further projects which provide low-income housing for our community members. I would also propose that the city formalize its relationship with various placement agencies to match residents needing housing with other residents currently providing room rental opportunities in their homes at an affordable rate.
2) Where are the best avenues for economic growth in Morro Bay? What would you do to pursue them? Continue to work with our TBID and and our partnership with Visit SLO Cal to expand our marketing efforts to make Morro Bay a destination city (increase tourism) As a current council member, I have been working for the last three years as a council-appointed liaison to bring wind energy offshore from Morro Bay. I will continue to aggressively pursue this significant economic opportunity to provide clean energy through Morro Bay. Again, as a council member we approved a (request for proposal) to develop the market Plaza Embarcadero site. Lastly, as a council member, I have worked hard to increase development/redevelopment opportunities on the Embarcadero.
3) What do you see as the other top issue facing Morro Bay and what would you do about it? To continue to work with city staff and our community to complete our new water reclamation facility , providing a new source of clean water for our community at a site away from coastal hazards and tsunami zone inundation. I will work hard to further decrease costs to complete our new water reclamation facility, leading to even lower-than-approved water and sewer rates for our community members (by pursuing (state revolving fund) low-cost financing, project value engineering, and limiting contingency costs)
Running for: Mayor
Occupation: Owner of Coast Electronics
Education: Electronics Technology, College of San Mateo, 1979. Cuesta College, general business, 1990.
Prior Experience in Office or Running: President, Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011); district governor, Rotary Club (2017-2018); charter president, Morro Bay Eco-Rotary (2011).
1) What should be done at the city level to address the crisis-level lack of affordable housing? Reduce the time and costs to obtain a permit for a qualified and designated affordable housing unit. Direct city staff and empower them to be more user friendly which is often a complaint for builders, as compared to neighboring communities. Direct staff to locate funding with state Department of Housing and Community Development. Revise the city’s secondary unit policy to examine if it is feasible to increase the number of secondary units that would be restricted from being vacation rentals.
2) Where are the best avenues for economic growth in Morro Bay? What would you do to pursue them? The core of Morro Bay is tourism comprised of hotels, vacation rentals and RVs. We currently promote Morro Bay with inside staff at about twice the costs as four years ago when the city had a contract with a destination marketing organization (DMO). The result of the change to city-operated tourism is essentially stagnant — economic growth has stopped and the city is spending more money. Paso Robles for example copied our previous DMO marketing approach and is flourishing.
(Bed tax) income to the city in July 2018 is down $9,000 from July 2017, and Highway 1 was open. If that trend continues, the city will have to cut essential or safety staff to make up for the gap. I would put the hotels and restaurant owners back in charge of the (Tourism Business Improvement District) and reduce city staff, overhead from the general fund and take back the community’s approximately $150,000 from the general fund to support other community needs. We can make tourism work harder for us with less cost to residents by taking advice from the experts in our community that work in the industry. (Wind energy business) Trident Winds (could be) an excellent opportunity for the city to create high paying jobs in partnership with our fishing industry and many others.
3) What do you see as the other top issue facing Morro Bay and what would you do about it? The largest capital project for Morro Bay is the sewer project. I pledge to move forward with a sewer plant that is affordable and has good science. We have a surprising number of sewer experts who have retired to Morro Bay as well as numerous studies that have been completed regarding this important topic. We also have potential litigation on the proposed location that is a matter of public record. My hope is to bring varying factions together to build a plant we can all be proud of as well as partner where possible with our neighbors to the north who have a project that is planned for completion in two years with responsible ecology for the Coast.